Monday, December 01, 2003
unconventional conventions http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-op-phillips30nov30,1,4876352.story?coll=la-home-politics
When Democratic delegates head to Boston for their late July convention, they might not have an obvious nominee. This possibility flies in the face of the party's record of the last three decades. Each time, the leading contender who won the bulk of the primaries won the nomination — on the first ballot.
In 2004, if no candidate breaks away from the pack early and clearly, Balkanization could set in, because too many convention delegates might be selected too quickly. By mid-March, with two-thirds of the delegates already chosen, you could have an incipient stalemate, with Howard Dean holding 28% of them, Dick Gephardt 22%, John Kerry 16%, Wesley Clark 12%, John Edwards 8%, Joe Lieberman 7% and Al Sharpton 5%.
Historically, this would augur ill for the Democrats. Since World War I, they have lost all four elections in which they chose a dark-horse compromise candidate after embarrassingly long bickering (more than 40 ballots in 1920, more than 100 in 1924) or later picked a nominee who had not run in the early primaries (Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and Hubert Humphrey in 1968). At first blush, doing so again in 2004 would look dumb.
However, should Dean or someone else lead with a delegate count below or around 30% through March, that probably wouldn't be enough to command the nomination. To win, the early leader would have to politick heavily enough and persuasively enough in the spring to gather 38% to 40% of the delegates by May or June.
Hence, the wisdom of Dean and Kerry to forgo the public financing system for the primary period. Either would need more money than the system would allow to stay in high gear during April and May. Reaching 40% of the delegate count without that extra money might be impossible.
The new context is that it could be good for Democrats to have the intraparty race remain active and full of Bush-blistering right up through the July convention. That would allow them to stay on message against the White House and the GOP. Should the Democratic primaries yield a winner by March, however, public interest could subside, leaving the probable nominee underfunded and lacking the wherewithal to be heard for four months while the White House and the Republicans, spending hundreds of millions of privately raised dollars, controlled the debate.
An encouraging Democratic scenario could include Dean wrapping up the nomination in May or June, gaining battle experience and the momentum of a winner without the GOP having been able to negatively define him with megabuck advertising. Instead, a Democratic drumbeat and Bush indictment could flourish.
Note that having Bill Richardson (current gov of New Mexico and Energy Sec. in the Clinton Administration) as chairman of the convention will be very helpful to Dean, given his strong affinity for his fellow governor. The single fact of Richardson's just-shy-of-endorsement support effectively negates the second, nonsensical scenario in the article of a Gore return and Dean as Veep. What is possible is a Gore endorsement, however.
The article also turns its attention to the GOP convention, calling it not a race but a "coronation" (I assume Blake Ashby won't be invited). There are some very interesting points however about the potential political liability and backlash to the GOP for draping itself in the flag and the ashes of 9-11 (Ground Zero will be only a few miles away, and will likely figure prominently), given the lack of success in finding OBL or Saddam and the general problems in Iraq. Not to mention the massive and aggressive security presence accompanying the President, which will no doubt look with extreme suspicion at the millions of Arab and Muslim inhabitants attending the more than 130 mosques in the immediate area.
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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.